I should have been a linguist. I found myself deeply entranced by a book I found at borders last night. The Atoms of Language is an analysis of the way language mirrors chemistry in its structure. Mark C. Baker, the author proposes that all languages are composed of a relatively small subset of atomic like structures that he callsparameters, whose treatment by a specific language will determine the variations we see in that language. These parameters act like switches and indicate the use or disuse of a specific linguistic rule or option, and based on the use or disuse of that rule, linguistic characteristics evolve logically to form what Mr. Baker called parametric clusters.
His analogy, based on the formation of the periodic table which allowed chemists to understand the system God used to build the natural world, in turn allows us to understand how languages work and a basic and structural level. In Chemistry, a small number of indivisible elements make up a vast and varied natural world, and understanding the system that governs those elements allows chemists to not only understand those structures, but predict them.
Christians know that all languages stem from the same source. All peoples spoke the same language once, and the rules that govern communication have a common source. When God confused the languages at the Tower of Babel, he probably did so by changing the various parameters He had created, allowing man, who was made to understand language in a certain way, to speak and understand a wide variety of languages. It is interesting and speaks of the forknowledge of God that He would create language in such a way, providing for the future and allowing for flexibility and change.
For those of us who think most naturally in terms of systems, and not in terms of detail, the knowledge that most things of a complex nature are the result of a far more simplistic system is an empowering and exciting thing. In an age where all peoples still struggle to communicate, knowledge of systems and principles, not detail, will provide us with what we need to bridge the gaps that separate us.